Take a moment to look at your personal life. Are you experiencing a season of connection and community? Or do you find yourself alone, maybe even among others, in a season of emotional isolation? Or perhaps, like many of us, you find yourself in an in-between place: one where life seems only to afford you the time to stay half-grounded in any meaningful relationships. You have them available to you, but you don’t seem to have the time, space, or emotional energy to invest fully.
God designed us for community—yes, he designed you for community—and he designed you to thrive with other believers by your side. But part of that fact implies that you’ll never be able to thrive without it.
John Piper recently delivered a message on this very topic titled—brace yourself—You Will Die Without Good Friends. Sound a little extreme?
Perhaps, but the truth in his message is clear…and certain. With the deceptiveness of culture, the distractions of life, the glamour of ambition, and own chronic blindness to sin, Piper points us to Hebrews 3:13: “Exhort one another every day”.
“If you have a small group that meets every two weeks, that’s fine. Just use email and be on the phone a lot. In other words, the pocket gatherings—weekly or bi-weekly—are to establish relationships that get this thing going for every day. You think you don’t need this every day. You don’t know what you’re up against.”
This means that attending church regularly and faithfully won’t cut it. This means that meeting your small group won’t sustain you. There are believers who show up, serve, and even lead community groups for years…all without experiencing Christian friendship as it’s meant to be. And I can count myself in that number.
So what is it exactly that you need? According to Piper, it’s people who “love [your] soul and have the courage to tell [you] things.” This should be the common denominator across small groups, church planting teams, Christian counseling, Christian marriage, and Christian parenting…and all Christian friendships.
This is the one distinguishing mark of Christian friendship—the one thing every Christian friendship desperately needs.
In a social media driven culture, this need resonates now more than ever. Where everything is influenced by appearance, fueled by convenience, and dependant on “likes,” it’s hard to find authenticity. Even in this “age of connection,” we seem to be so overstimulated by all the faux connection that we’re often drained of the time, space, and mental energy God intends for us to pour into others—so many of whom are right around us.
But this attention to meaningful connection isn’t just coming from the Christian scene. Even Mark Zuckerberg, according to this article by Jesse Carey on Relevant Magazine, wants Facebook to become more like a church. After meeting with a group of pastors earlier this year, Zuckerberg stated:
“[The meeting] helped me understand just how important community is, and how we’re all just looking for something we can trust. We may come from different backgrounds, but we all want to find purpose and authenticity in something bigger than ourselves.”
If the world is noticing the importance of community (and if the CEO of Facebook is pointing it out) believers should be leading the way in modeling it. So, as the world looks on, there is a challenge—and a promise—every believer should embrace:
If we invest in community, sow time and energy into other believers, and focus our attention on speaking truth and love into others…our lives will never be the same.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” –Hebrews 10:24-25